Gratitude Express- Things that have made me happy this week

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Hello Monday! I am feeling particularly perky, as today is the first day in a month that everyone appears to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready and raring to go. I might even have a whole Monday where I can get a decent amount of work done and get back to my semi-abandoned blog! I’ve probably jinxed that now, and someone else will get sick, but for the moment, I’m running with it. This last month has been busy with lots of lovely things on, but at the same time we have had to contend with 2 ear infections, a chest infection, a nasty cold, flu, chicken pox x 3 and a sickness bug that poor F had that involved a middle of the night 45 minute clean up operation- never good when you don’t have your contact lenses in! I can honestly say that as a family we are barely ever ill, so this has knocked us for six. My Mum and Adam’s parents have been heroes and helped us so much this past month- we are so lucky to have them nearby.

Still, despite all this, we have managed to fit in some fun trips and activities, even if it’s been in dribs and drabs. Adam and Sasha had their bout of chicken pox at the same time (Ad never had it as a child, so he caught it now, aged 31!), so whilst we were lucky that they weren’t too poorly, they were obviously contagious for several days so hung out together at home whilst Freddie and I tried to carry on relatively normally. No more illness please!

Here are some things that have made me happy this past week:

  • A great morning first thing this morning. Might sound silly, but it’s not often we have a morning where everyone has to be out of the house, and I’m not getting stressed and bellowing at someone to hurry up. Today I was up at 6am (Adam had already left for work), felt okay and not dog-tired for once, had a leisurely poached-eggs-on-toast breakfast, got everyone ready and left the house with time to spare. It makes a huge difference to my mood- I really must try and get up and my act together earlier more often. If I’m ‘done’ then it’s so much easier to focus on getting the small people and house ready!
  • Christmas cream tea at The Ritz with my Mum last Tuesday. We’ve done this every year for the past 5 years and it’s a festive highlight for me! We drop the children off with Adam’s folks for the afternoon, and then have a pootle around Hamleys (and Libertys this year too), before having our tea at about 5.30. For some reason, sandwiches seem to taste better when they’re cut into fingers with the crusts off- so good! They have carol singers whilst you’re eating, and the scones are to die for. Definitely recommend as a Christmas treat!
  • The festive displays outside Libertys (the department store). So beautiful, especially at this time of year and the smell is incredible!
  • My new festive mug – as a tea-obsessive, you can never have too many mugs, especially if they are festive and involve deer.
  • My belated birthday night away with Adam on Saturday night (we had to cancel before as I was ill on my actual birthday). He surprised me with a stay at the South Place Hotel in The City, and then cocktails and dinner at City Social that has THE most amazing views over London and a fantastic atmosphere. Much needed as we haven’t been out together just the two of us in a while- and we got to have a mini lie in too, huzzah!
  • A pre-Christmas, Christmas dinner with my family yesterday. One of my brothers is off to Sweden for the big day (my SIL is Swedish) with her and my niece, so we all met up for a slap-up meal. Always lovely to see everyone together :-)
  • Cuddling up and watching Home Alone with the children. Not the most relaxing as I had to give a running commentary throughout (it never fails to amaze me how often a 2 and 3 year old can say “why”!) but was lovely all the same. The start of an annual tradition I hope, even if they are still a bit young this year.
  • A fry up and unlimited tea and coffee for a fiver at soft play on Saturday morning. And it was actually QUIET there (a miracle) It’s the little things, right?!
  • Buying the children’s stocking fillers. One of the best bits of the Christmas build up I think!
  • Having a load of my friends over last Friday for food and drinks whilst Adam was on his work do. We discovered that Virgin TV has a Karaoke bit on it- queue some late night caterwauling to TLC ‘Waterfalls’ and trying to do the rap in it- over and over again!
  • A beautiful, if chilly, Saturday afternoon down the football club. Freddie and Sasha run riot whilst we drink mugs of steaming tea and watch the footie. It’s then so nice to walk home and snuggle up in the warm afterwards, definitely blows the cobwebs away.
  • Mince pies- I can’t get enough at this time of year!
  • Christmas carols/songs- always give me a warm, fuzzy feeling!

This week I’m hoping to wrap up some work for Christmas, continue to send out Christmas orders for my little shop and start on some present wrapping. Oh, and attempt to make our Gingerbread house. We’ve never made one before so I’m not quite sure how it will turn out!

What have you loved this last week?

 

My Festive Home: Chocolate Spoons!

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Hello! Been laying low a bit this last week- family illness plus general Christmas busyness has meant that my focus has been elsewhere, although we’ve still found time to make these fabulous chocolate spoons! Ideal for stirring and melting in warm milk, they make a great stocking filler, or attractive when displayed in a pretty small vase/mug.

Freddie and Sasha loved helping me make these, although there was more chocolate going in their mouths as opposed to actual decorating- a definite chocolate detox will be needed come New Year!

You will need:

  • Mini disposable wooden spoons
  • Milk and white Chocolate for melting
  • Decorations – I like silver balls, multi-coloured sprinkles, little stars, edible glitter… you name it, it can go on a spoon!
  • Coloured pens, or stampers for decorating the spoons
  • Clear celophane
  • Ribbon

Instructions:

  1. Decorate the handles of your spoons, using pens or your rubber stampers. I used some Christmas-themed rubber stamps that I’ve had for years.
  2. Lay out your spoons on a tray (must be able to fit in your fridge!) on top of some baking paper.
  3. Melt both the milk and the white chocolate in separate bowls.
  4. Dip your spoons in the melted chocolate of choice, and then place on the baking paper.
  5. If you want to be creative and use two types of chocolate for each spoon, you can then drizzle the other chocolate i.e. white chocolate over the milk chocolate once this has cooled a little (so they don’t mix together and create a horrible mess!).
  6. Whilst the top layer of chocolate is still soft, use your stars, balls etc to decorate.
  7. Put the spoons on their tray into the fridge to cool and set.
  8. Once set, you can wrap the top of the spoon in clear cellophane and tie with pretty ribbon.

Linking up with Honest Mum’s ‘Brilliant Blog Posts’!

This Year’s Christmas Cake!

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Every year I make a Christmas cake, using my family’s traditional recipe. Once the cake has had a few weeks to be soaked in booze, it’s retrieved from its tin, and decorating it completes this much-loved culinary ritual! I’d decided to decorate it earlier than usual this year, as we’d often leave it until a few days before Christmas Day, when there was so much other food around that it often got sidelined (it tastes good, promise!), and by the time Boxing Day and beyond came, then we were all sick of Christmas food anyway. I figured that by decorating it now, it can be eaten and enjoyed with a cup of tea or mulled wine in the run up to the big day instead, and there will be no waste: win-win.

I absolutely adore the decorations we use as they have great sentimental value to me, as they were my late Nan’s. They are a bit battered and very retro but I wouldn’t have it any other way, plus I do love a good deer! Silver balls add a finishing touch to our thick, homemade icing (this covers the marzipan, one of the best bits!).

How do you decorate your cake? Do you do any particular Christmas baking each year?

Our Festive Home!

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It’s that time of year again when I can once more get excited about giving our home a total makeover, that lasts for approx one month, before it all comes down and normal service is resumed once more! It’s actually quite weird if you think about, all this temporary house decorating for what is essentially one day, but hey, I LOVE the festive period, so there is no way I’m complaining!

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This year our home is decorated with a mix of old and new decorations (I like to buy perhaps one or two new items each December, and keep the rest from years gone by, as I think they create lovely memories as brought out time and time again). We don’t have a particular theme as such, just an eclectic mix of things we love, plus a few older items that we have inherited from our families that mean something to us (like my tree Angel, see here!)

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I tend to put only a few different festive bits in our kitchen/diner. The paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling are a fun statement, and since this is a much-used ‘busy’ room anyway (Read: lots of stuff everywhere), all that’s needed apart from these is some well-placed fairy lights around our dresser, otherwise the room would look too cluttered and migraine-inducing (and I really don’t need any help on this front). Makes me feel so cosy and festive when the main lights are turned off!

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Our living room is where the main festive magic occurs- I like dimmed lights (good lighting is so important), and luxurious finishing touches (like these embellished apples and pears, above). Even our deer vase, usually home to bright, summery flowers, has had a yuletide makeover!

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I’ve been so chuffed that this year we’ve been able to afford to buy a new chair and sofa, to replace our far-too-big and CRAZY patterned red sofa. It looked great in our old flat, but always looked a bit awkward and out of character with the period of the house once we moved. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve been looking forward to the moment we got new chairs for a long while! <shallow> I am also doubly-chuffed with these absolutely fabulous ‘Hop’ cushions that Habitat sent us for our purple wonder. They match a treat, with or without festive decor, and the material is super-comfy, yet hard-wearing- essential with two small people on the loose! As a fan of grey too, they are in keeping with my kinda colour palette. I’ve been eyeing-up a couple of others for our leather chair come the New Year- watch this space. Habitat also have some ace sofas on their website- definitely worth a look if you’re looking for a new one for 2015.

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Christmas isn’t Christmas without some sort of fireplace to stare at/hang your stocking on, even if you don’t have a real fire in it *wails* Ours is home right now to the cutest nativity set for the children, courtesy of my Mum a few years ago, and in lieu of a fire, some candles. Nothing says Crimbo to me quite like a Yankee Candle- I go for Sparkling Cinnamon every year without fail!

How do you decorate your home for the festive season?

Thanks so much to Habitat for sending us our beautiful cushions, we love ‘em!

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts!

The Gratitude Express- Turning 31 Special!

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On Saturday I turned 31, significantly less daunting than turning 30, although it’s always a little disappointing that the older you get, the less special birthdays tend to be ( especially if you spend your birthday ill. Have I mentioned this enough yet?!). I guess that’s what’s so great about having children, that you can really give them a fabulous, magical birthday instead. Birthday planning for the smalls is one of my favourite things to do! I am actually really lucky though, as Adam had planned a night away (i’m not sure where yet), but he has managed to rearrange for two weeks time so we will celebrate then instead.

I have actually enjoyed this first year of my 30s immensely- lots of positive and unexpected things have happened, and I have a definite feeling of contentment right now (hoping that writing this isn’t the kiss of death!). 30 has been good to me overall, i’m hoping 31 is even better!

Whilst I was ill and tucked up on the sofa with my Lemsip, and yellow blanket (thank you, Blogfest!), I was able to reflect a little, and realise that despite feeling sorry for myself, I have lots to be thankful for, and one mini-non-birthday-blip is nadda in the grand scheme of things!

This week I am grateful for:

  1. Lemsip, Calpol, anti-biotics, drugs, doctors, NHS, etc etc. Our whole family has been really poorly in some way shape or form, and boy, am I grateful for living in a country where we have all this stuff on tap.
  2. Having family so close by, who are prepared to help out so much- they’ve been ANGELS this past week and been fantastic child entertainers whilst we’ve been floored by illness.
  3. The fact our two little troopers have been so good, and so brave whilst being ill. Neither of them complained a jot, they just wanted extra cuddles (of which I was happy to oblige!)
  4. Beautiful flowers from my Mum.
  5. Having such lovely friends (who also have great taste in cards and presents!)
  6. A fella who looks after me when I’m poorly, and lets me sleep for as long as I need.
  7. The film ‘The Holiday’ for cheering me up. Okay, so it was too early for anything festive really, and the acting is awful, but for some reason I always go back for more. Perfect lazy watching!
  8. Chocolate Panettonne from Sainsburys- SO good with a cup of tea.
  9. Routine! Call us boring, but we all thrive better on a bit of a routine, especially the children, and because we’ve all been out of sorts, it’s gone out of the window a bit. As a result the children have been grumpy, tired and unsettled. Amen for normal service resuming!
  10. Making sausage rolls- my favourite!
  11. The fact it’s now December- I can feel Christmassy guilt-free!

What are you thankful for this week?

Linking up with Let’s Talk Mommy and ‘Share With Me’

 

A Recipe! Extremely More-ish Sausage Rolls!

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I have to admit that I’m a bit of a pastry fiend. Sweet or savoury, I could eat the stuff all day, but I refrain as I would be the size of a house! However, once the festive season is upon us, I allow myself to indulge as much as possible, and I have to say that these sausage rolls are to die for <modest>

What’s good about these babies is that you can make them in advance and freeze a load, so you’re not spending your precious busy free time in December in the kitchen (as much as I like cooking, baking etc, any short cuts that I can take that mean I’m not slaving away there are most welcome!).

Here I made a big batch of sausage rolls for the family party that we’re having at ours this Boxing Day. They look and taste pretty damn impressive, which means you are free to cheat and buy a few bits from elsewhere (hellooooo Iceland Prawn Ring!). Just don’t do what I did and stick the end of a wooden spoon into the food processor to push the ingredients down, and then spend 20 minutes sifting through the mixture for the end of said spoon…

The ingredients below make about 100 mini sausage rolls, once you’ve cut them up (they cook better this way).

You will need:

  • 1 large onion
  • 450g  good quality Sausage Meat (I buy a pack of sausages, and squeeze the meat out of the skins!)
  • 1tsp of ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds, ground up in a pestle and mortar
  • 6 large fresh sage leaves
  • 75g of white breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1kg of shop bought Puff Pastry (the easiest way, trust me, and unless you’re Mary Berry, you won’t know the difference)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sesame & Poppy seeds for sprinkling

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.
  2. Place the onion, sausage meat, fennel seeds, sage leaves, breadcrumbs, coriander, 1 egg and some salt and pepper in to a food processor, and blend it up until it is all combined. If you do not have a food processor, then chop the onion and sage leaves in to tiny pieces and combine with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Put this mixture to one side.001
  3. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface. If it comes in 500g blocks roll out one at a time.004
  4. Each 500g of pasty should be rolled in to a long piece that is approximately 22 inches long and 7 inches wide. Then cut this length in half down the middle. 005 006
  5. You can now begin to construct your sausage rolls!
  6. Split the Sausage Meat mixture in to four balls and place one portion right down the middle of the pastry. Favour one edge slightly more than the other as you’ll be rolling it up. 007 009 011
  7. Take one side of the pastry up and over the sausage meat, and then push together with the pastry on the other side of the sausage meat mixture.  013
  8. Seal it all in with a fork, pushing gently on the edges.014
  9. Give the pastry an egg wash with a small brush. 017
  10. Then sprinkle a mixture of Sesame and Poppy seeds all over the top so they stick to the top and the egg wash.020
  11. Cut each length of sausage filled pastry in to roughly twenty four pieces- maybe more or less. 024
  12. If you want to freeze the Sausage Rolls, then this is the time to do so. Place them uncooked on to some baking paper on a tray and bung them in the freezer. When they are frozen they can be bagged up to save space. Defrost for an hour or so before you cook them.
  13. If you want to bake them immediately, then place them on to a lined baking tray and cook for between twenty and twenty five mins, until they are golden brown.027

A perfect party nibble!

Hooking up with Vicki and her ‘Tasty Tuesdays’!